BBC Radio 1 presenter and ex-Raunds resident Chris Smith talks growing up in Northamptonshire and inspiration for his new children's book

"There’s definitely a lot of Northamptonshire in it”
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When Mutt gets a job as an apprentice at the leading detective agency in the realm of Rillia, he's not expecting to work with ex-princesses, snow gnoblins and the most notorious assassin of the White Hand Clan.And he's definitely not expecting to be thrown in the deep end on the agency's toughest and most dangerous job yet - the mysterious case of the vanishing jester…

BBC Radio 1 newsreader Chris Smith is set to launch a new children’s book this Spring, and he spoke to the Northants Telegraph about his inspiration behind the story and what it was like growing up in Raunds.

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While the book will be available nationally, the author’s origins are firmly rooted in Northamptonshire, and his love of writing stems from his local upbringing.

Clarity Jones launches May 25Clarity Jones launches May 25
Clarity Jones launches May 25

Chris entered the H.E. Bates short story competition in 1981 at just eight-years-old.

His submission, ‘Where are the Brandy Snaps’ was about a dinosaur who stole everyone’s biscuits, and claimed first prize.

He credits that competition as the beginning of his writing journey, provoking an interest in the profession that he was always eager to rekindle.

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Clarity Jones and the Magical Detective Agency is another entry on the author’s already stellar resume.

Chris grew up in RaundsChris grew up in Raunds
Chris grew up in Raunds

Chris said: "I was extremely proud because I was featured in the Evening Telegraph (this paper!).

"I ended up actually working in radio instead for quite a long time, but always had the intention to come back to writing at some point, and it took me quite a few years to do it but I’m very glad to have finally got there.”

That journey into radio led him to an on-air role with BBC Radio 1, presenting Newsbeat as part of Greg James’ show.

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Clarity Jones and the Magical Detective Agency is set to hit shelves on May 25, adding to Chris’ impressive list of published children’s books that includes Kid Normal and The Great Dream Robbery.

The novel is aimed at fans of Cressida Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon), Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike) and Disney Pixar.

He added: "I love making up crazy, mad things, drawing maps of imaginary lands and that kind of stuff.

"Last year I was working on a follow up to my first solo book which was Frankie Best Hates Quests, which was a similar funny fantasy adventure, and I wanted to write one in the same land, but different characters and a little bit of distance from it.

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"It probably took about three or four months to write the whole book, it was just the tail end of lockdown, and I actually had Covid when I wrote it so had a bit of brain fog, so it wasn’t the easiest writing experience I’ve ever had, but I got through it in the end and had lots of fun doing it.

"I write books for kids but I think there are enough nerdy fantasy references to keep the grown-ups interested as well.”

A release from Penguin Random House Children’s said: "Chris is bursting with creativity, with Clarity Jones and the Magical Detective Agency full of twists and mystery, a real world building read.

"Chris’ novels are hilarious love letters to all of the fantasy tropes he loved as a kid – brilliantly accessible and laugh-out-loud tales for young readers.”

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Chris cites a keen interest in local folklore as a strong inspiration for his works, including Stowe Nine Churches and local legendary figures like Skulking Dudley and Captain Slash in Boughton.

That inspiration has sometimes manifested in his works, with subtle references to Northamptonshire culture that eagle-eyed readers will be able to spot.

On the topic, Chris said: "If anyone, particularly in East Northamptonshire, has read Frankie Best Hates Quests they might have been surprised to see a village that they pass on the way called Artlenock, which as a lot of people know is what we locals call Irthlingborough!”

"When I write my stories I like making up my own bits of folklore which is based on a lot of those old Northamptonshire myths and legends but that are slightly changed.”

"There’s definitely a lot of Northamptonshire in it.”